Dell backs road plan

County should help fund service lanes for Liberty Road, he says

`A worthwhile proposal'

$1 million project could ease problems on congested stretch

July 09, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County Commissioner Donald I. Dell said yesterday he is willing to have the county help finance parallel service roads along a two-mile stretch of Route 26, the main business corridor in Eldersburg and one of the most congested arteries in the county.

The one-way service roads would allow only right-hand turns in and out of businesses. The project, estimated to cost about $1 million, would alleviate some traffic problems.

Dell and Ed Wheatley, a member of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission, met last month in Eldersburg with state highway officials to discuss the feasibility of the project. Wheatley, who used to work as an engineer for the State Highway Administration, said there is enough land to build side lanes along a nearly two-mile stretch of Liberty Road, also known as Route 26.

Wheatley said the state officials were receptive to the plan.

"I drove them to the site and showed them what I was talking about," said Wheatley during a meeting with county commissioners yesterday. "They were receptive to the plan. I was pleasantly surprised by their whole reaction. I expected flak."

Dell said he would be willing to commit county money to get the project started and would ask the Eldersburg business community to contribute. By making safety and aesthetic improvements to a highly traveled roadway, the county could create a model for its other congested areas, he said.

"It is a worthwhile proposal, even if it means county funds to move it along," said Dell. "If it works, we should take a look at Finksburg."

Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Julia Walsh Gouge did not comment on Dell's willingness to use county money for the proposed service roads.

The state group drove east from Route 32 to the bridges at Liberty Reservoir, a road that nearly 36,000 vehicles take daily, according to the state's most recent traffic counts. Service lanes would relieve congestion and make the highway safer, Wheatley said.

The state recently synchronized five traffic signals in Eldersburg and added some right-turn lanes. But officials still rate the highway's level of service as poor because of delays and accidents.

"There is no median now, only a left-turn lane in the middle," said Wheatley. "I call that the suicide lane."

About 100 driveways feed into the highway from Eldersburg businesses and homes. Service roads, which have long been planned, would divert local traffic from the highway into the shopping centers.

Wheatley proposes two 12-foot-wide side lanes, each separated from the highway by 12-foot-wide strips. The state now uses only about 85 of the 150 feet of road and its right of way, he said, so there is room for the service roads.

Existing paving -- about 9,000 feet -- would make a south service lane relatively inexpensive -- about $148,000, Wheatley estimated. The north side, with about 1,100 feet of existing paving, would cost about $890,000. Utilities would not be affected, he said.

David Buck, a State Highway Administration spokesman, called the proposal a good idea, but said it faces several hurdles.

"We would need written support from the county and some restrictions on development so there are not so many conflict points," Buck said.

Several years ago, before Wal-Mart and several other shopping centers opened on Liberty Road, the county turned down a similar service lane proposal from SHA.

"We are more than willing to support this effort, but to fund something we have previously suggested and been denied would be difficult," Buck said.

The county legislative delegation would have to support the project and make it a high priority, said Buck.

"SHA could construct it with county funding," he said. "This has been done in other counties."

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